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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Brief ABC Vignette - Texting



For quick Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) practice, whereby I will use the ABC Model, consider the following vignette:


Most of the time, when John Doe texts his friend Charlie Dough, Charlie’s responses are delayed. It doesn’t matter whether or not John identifies a textual conversation as “urgent,” Charlie usually replies hours or even days later.


Moreover, Charlie is known never to answer his phone. Last year, when his aunt Mildred passed away, no one in Charlie’s family was able to reach him and as a result Charlie missed the funeral.


Recently, John won two tickets to a music festival wherein Charlie’s favorite artist, Lil’ Lowlyfe 410xx, will perform. The last three times Charlie tried to purchase tickets for the entertainer, all concerts sold out within minutes and Charlie missed an opportunity to attend.


Knowing how important it is to see the performer before the tour ends, John texts Charlie to inform him of the good news. The Lil’ Lowlyfe 410xx concert begins at 8 p.m. this evening and upon winning the tickets at 12 p.m., John sends many texts to Charlie with the hopes of receiving a response.


By 6 p.m., John still hasn’t heard from Charlie. Travel to the venue, parking, and other logistical challenges would require that the two friends head to the festival at no later than 6:30 p.m.


John suspects that Charlie will be heartbroken to discover John has attended the concert with their mutual acquaintance, Lisa-Anne D’oh, though John doesn’t want to pass on an opportunity to see Lil’ Lowlyfe 410xx perform. With Lisa on standby, 7 p.m. rolls around and there’s no word from Charlie.


Much of the information contained in the vignette contributes to an action people often think leads to a consequence. Charlie failing to answer John’s text (action) is thought of as causing frustration (consequence).


However, rather than an Action-Consequence (A-C) connection, REBT considers that it’s what a person believes about the action that induces a consequence. As such, the Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection is how we disturb ourselves.


While information related to the vignette is important, I find it useful to narrow down the aspect of an action the client considers most significant. This “critical A,” or crucial action, is subjective in nature though holds meaning to a person for a variety of reasons.


Suppose I saw John for therapy and he said, “Whenever I truly need to get a hold of Charlie using text, he’s rarely available and I no longer can depend on him.” The synthesized meaning of John’s vignette has little to do with a performing artist and relates more to relational fidelity.


Action – Charlie rarely responds to John’s texts, as John now doubts Charlie’s devotion to the friendship.


Sometimes, clients tell me that the perceived A-C connection manifests quicker than determining what they believed about the action. When getting started with teaching the REBT method, I grant this misperceived notion and then reverse-engineer the matter.


Perhaps John thinks that when Charlie neglects to respond via text, and that the relationship is in jeopardy, this experience causes frustration. After all, who hasn’t learned that in life there is an equal and opposite reaction for every action?


Consequence – John mistakenly thinks that when Charlie doesn’t respond to texts, thus calling into question the matter of Charlie’s loyalty, John immediately becomes frustrated. He also notices shallow breathing, tightness in his chest, and his legs begin to rapidly shake. As well, John begins sending more texts, this time of a passive-aggressive nature.


As I walk a client through the fundamentals of REBT, I emphasize personal responsibility and accountability. Though Charlie’s actions may be significant to John, Charlie has no control and little actual influence over John’s reflex to the occurrence.


It’s important to understand that within the ABC Model, John will learn to dispute his beliefs which cause the consequence. We aren’t disputing the action—in this case, Charlie’s behavior—because that’s something that actually occurred and which is independent of John.


Likewise, we aren’t disputing the consequence, because John’s emotions, bodily sensations, and behavioral responses—though unpleasant and originating from within—are also very real. Therefore, we dispute the belief that causes the consequence.


In order to consider a focus of dispute, we need to identify a belief. Often, I hear, “Well, Deric, I wasn’t thinking anything at the time,” and this very well may be.


Thoughts and beliefs are similar, though a belief is more akin to a deeply held demand about oneself, others, or the world as a whole. It’s the difference between thinking, “I don’t like bananas,” and believing, “No one must ever offer me a banana.”


Not always, though often, our beliefs present in the form of should, must, or ought-type commands. In the aforementioned example, it’s reasonable to think about not liking bananas, though demanding that a person must not be offered bananas is unreasonable—and more importantly unhelpful.


Let’s presume that when asked about what rigid rule John has about Charlie’s behavior and their relationship as a whole, John states, “Charlie shouldn’t abandon our friendship, because I don’t think I could stand it if he did.” I would place this direct belief in an ABC sequence for disputing.


Belief – “Charlie shouldn’t abandon our friendship, because I don’t think I could stand it if he did.”


Having attained all elements of the ABC foundation, I would then assist John with arranging them in their proper order. To illustrate how the B-C connection works, here is the appropriate ABC Model representation of John’s concern:


Action – Charlie rarely responds to John’s texts, as John now doubts Charlie’s devotion to the friendship.


Belief – “Charlie shouldn’t abandon our friendship, because I don’t think I could stand it if he did.”


Consequence – Due to John’s belief about the action, John immediately becomes frustrated. He also notices shallow breathing, tightness in his chest, and his legs begin to rapidly shake. As well, John begins sending more texts, this time of a passive-aggressive nature.


In the current blog entry, I won’t get into the nuances of how the disputing process works. If you would like more in-depth understanding about my approach to REBT disputing, I invite you to review blog entries listed under the Disputation portion of my blog.


Herein, I hope to have adequately demonstrated a valuable lesson of how the ABC Model functions. Basically, it isn’t what happens to us that causes suffering in the form of unpleasant consequences, though what we believe about an action that leads to our misery.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW



References:


Enriquez, A. (2021, October 25). Q. How does fair use work for book covers, album covers, and movie posters? Penn State. Retrieved from https://psu.libanswers.com/faq/336502

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Blog – Categories: Disputation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/blog/categories/disputation

Hollings, D. (2022, May 17). Circle of concern. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/circle-of-concern

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/demandingness

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2022, December 2). Low frustration tolerance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/low-frustration-tolerance

Hollings, D. (2023, March 4). M-E-T-H-O-D, man. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/m-e-t-h-o-d-man

Hollings, D. (2022, November 7). Personal ownership. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/personal-ownership

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-disturbance

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought

Hollings, D. (2022, November 9). The ABC model. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-abc-model

Hollings, D. (2022, December 23). The A-C connection. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-a-c-connection

Hollings, D. (2022, December 25). The B-C connection. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-b-c-connection

Hollings, D. (2022, November 2). The critical A. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-critical-a

Komando, K. (2018, February 17). 12 texting tips you didn’t know the iPhone could do [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.komando.com/kims-column/12-texting-tips-you-didnt-know-the-iphone-could-do/441694/

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